In the last 18 of my 27 years of practice I have focused on representing faculty, staff and students at state and private universities. I have discovered and confirmed that tenure at state universities only protects what needs no protection. Tenure in essence only protects professors who the administration does not want to fire. It does not protect tenured faculty who the administration has decided to terminate. How so?
Actually, the final step of the process is normally a decision by the Board of Regents to either support or reject the President’s recommendation or a faculty committee’s recommendation. My experience has shown that with a recommendation to terminate from the top administrators, a Board of Regents is always inclined to uphold that recommendation and close ranks behind the top administrators regardless of how faculty committee hearings turn out.
He offers an example:
At the risk of over-explaining, let’s take two examples in which parts are taken from real cases: Dr. A and Dr. B are both tenured professors at a state university. Dr. A is liked by the administration and never openly questions or criticizes the President or Provost, while Dr. B is not liked and often questions or objects to the actions of the administration. Also, Dr. B has been a little “too free” with his academic freedom, at least in the opinion of the President and Provost. Dr. A gets into a shouting match with a university employee over equipment usage. The same day, Dr. B also gets into a shouting match with a different employee, Ms. X, over equipment availability. Both incidents are witnessed by members of the administration.
The administration, already predisposed against “that troublemaker Dr. B,” decides it is time to fire him. An administrator meets with Ms. X and convinces her to file a complaint against Dr. B. The complaint will likely be somewhat embellished. Dr. B is called in and informed that he is accused of disruptive and unprofessional behavior and also of conveying a threat against the employee, and he may even be charged with sexual harassment. Dr. B is immediately suspended and banned from campus pending the investigation because he is a threat to the orderly operations of the university. Some time later, Dr. B appears before one or more committees who all find that while his behavior was less-than-exemplary, it was not adequate cause for dismissal. The committee(s) recommend perhaps some counseling. The President, however, recommends to the Board of Regents that Dr. B be terminated because of his unprofessional behavior and because of the great threat that he poses. The President discounts the committee recommendations as the result of biased faculty committee members who are just protecting their own. Dr. B, after suffering through the process and being suspended for as long as the process took (sometimes up to a year or more) is terminated. His tenure did not protect his position and, in fact, only forced the administration to invent adequate or good cause which will hurt Dr. B’s chances for acquiring a position at another university and which will irreparably harm his academic career. More.
Fair cop? Reading between the lines, it sounds like the perfect breeding ground for the precious little asshats who will one day rule us all, certainly if alumni don’t stop giving to U’s. (Because, in so many cases, the U we graduated from is dead, and the institution occupying the same space is just not a successor to it.)
See also, revealing tenure dramas: The tenured academic’s response to faked gay marriage opinion study
Tenured Nazarene U prof laid off, supporting evolution
Can’t risk new directions AFTER tenure either, says prof
Follow UD News at Twitter!